Characteristics in children’s voices might be stable correlates of psychopathology. This
relation, between voice characteristics and psychopathology, is investigated here for children
with ADHD and social phobia. The characteristics of interest are voice volume, speech rate,
pitch and timbre (usage of tones in voice). Timbre is a new line of research, so there is no
empirical support for its correlation with psychopathology.
A total of 57 children participated: 16 with social phobia (8 boys), 12 with ADHD (9 boys),
and 29 children without psychological problems (16 boys), who served as a control group,
matched on age and sex.
Social-emotional questionnaires, as well as a behavioural checklist and a Big Five list were
filled in on all the children. Further diagnostic tests (ADIS and AVL) were completed on the
children in the clinical groups. Four recordings per child are made, while they are reading out
loud a positive story, a negative story, telling a positive anecdote and telling a negative
Results show that children with ADHD speak louder, on average and at max, faster and use
the tone A# more in their speech. Severity of hyperactivity correlates significantly with the
use of D# and E in a voice. Personality, specifically neuroticism, mediates the relation
between ADHD and average loudness.
Children with social phobia also speak louder, on average and at max, faster, have a higher
pitch and use the tone A# more in their speech. Severity of anxiety correlates negatively with
maximum loudness and speech rate. No mediator effects are found for the relation between
social phobia and voice characteristics.
Since many characteristics appear to be related to both ADHD and social phobia, the question
raises whether these characteristics are really related to the specific psychopathologies or
rather to something more general, like egostrenght.
The one finding that is most stable and remains standing is the higher pitch in the voices of
children with social phobia. For ADHD, no specific, condition independent correlates are
found in this investigation.||